Tuesday, 16 January 2018


Alright, this is a bit late. A lot late. I can't even use the excuse of "I was too busy" on this one because it was quite the opposite.
The last few days in Japan were great, but uneventful from a blogging point of view. We spent a lot of time together as a family when I wasn't packing or finishing my report. We went out to a sushi bar for my last dinner and went shopping for some sweets to take back, like kapuriko and poky.
On the 13th, the morning before my plane, we went to Asakusa again and had a look at some of the shops that I didn't get to see last time I was there. We went for a really nice lunch, where the food was cooked on our table and we just ate it right off the hot plate. We ate way more than we should have, but it was worth it!
After that, I got changed and we headed off to the scout HQ with some meronpan (A nice, kinda sweet bread, but not as sweet as break cakes in Australia. It's more like a soft and light biscuit, actually. I definitely recommend it.). At the HQ I caught up a bit with Alya and we presented out reports. I had no idea that I was supposed to present it, so it was all in English and Tsumu had to translate for me. Oops.
We had some formalities, and Alya and I were given certificates. Pictures were taken, hands were shaken, and then off to the airport!
My host family stayed with me until I went into customs, just like my parents did when I left Australia. Just another thing that makes me feel like it's another home.
The flight was pretty uneventful, I mostly just listened to music. I couldn't sleep for most of it. I ended up getting so bored that I eventually watched Wonder Woman. Not a massive DC fan, but it wasn't too bad.
I landed about 5:30 and met Scott. We chatted about the trip while I waited for my parents, then started the long drive home. It was fantastic to see my family again and to see my house. It felt strange, honestly. Combined with seeing a new place, and returning home. There were just little things that were different that made it feel new, like the table being turned around, the water filter being moved, the birds being split into 2 cages, and so on.
I got to relax for a bit, continuing the picture in my stress-relief colouring book. Yeah, colouring in might seem childish to you, but keep in mind that I was using 0.3mm pens, and parts of the pictures were just big enough for them. It's pretty detailed.
Anyway, since then we went out to dinner with a couple of my parents' friends, I got to play my Switch again, hung out with a couple of friends, gone riding, and I now have a massive fluffy white cat trying to squish between me and my laptop to sit on my lap.
I'm starting to get back into the swing of things here, and I'm already job hunting. Good times.  -_-
I'm working out a daily routine to follow until I get a job, since I know for a fact that unless I have a sheet of paper on my desk or door telling me what to do first, I'm going to sit down with a book and then suddenly realise it's 4:00 and I haven't even gotten dressed. Last summer holidays. Interesting day...

Well, I suppose that this is my last post.
My trip to Japan was amazing, and I made so many friends there. I'm coming back with a new confidence and new skills.
This has been a fantastic 2 months, that I wouldn't trade for the world.
If any scout reading this still isn't sure about whether they should go or not, just go. I doubt that you'll regret it. You'll learn so much, and you'll leave with new friends that you'll hopefully stay in contact with for years to come.

Finally, this is Tegan, signing off for the last time.
I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

School, skiing and packing

OK, so this one's a bit late, but I've been kinda busy.
Let's back up a bit to Tuesday. The last day of school.
The school part was just, usual. Nothing big, or grand. But everyone was so nice, and many of them wished me a safe flight home.
Karate was amazing though!
I don't know if I ever mentioned it in a post, but I remember talking to my mum about seeing Matsu in my first or second time at karate doing a 360 jump, landing and going straight up with another kick and continuing his kata.
I was in awe of that and desperately wanted him to teach me how to do it. Later on, I saw some of the others doing jumping kicks and had the same reaction.
Well, I don't know if it had anything to do with it being my last time, but Matsu decided to teach exactly that!
Now, I know that some people may read this and think "Really? That's super easy! You can't do a 360 round kick jump?" Well, no. No, I cannot. Not everyone is good at physical activities.
I managed the 360 jump, and I can also land properly with enough balance to continue right off the bat. The jumping round kicks, however, are another story.
Let's just say I was sore. In various places.
Granted, we didn't start small. Matano, the tallest of our group, was holding the padded target at shoulder height, while standing on a chair.
I was trying to kick well above my head, so naturally, I failed most of the time. I think I kicked it twice, out of... Maybe 10 or 11 attempts?
But it was great fun. I also wrote a letter in both English and Japanese that Matsu signed, saying that I have participated in 45 hours of karate. (It's technically 45.5 hours, but I just simplified and rounded down instead of up in case I got something wrong.) It's well over my 30 hours that I need for my pursuits badge, which I proposed before I came here.
That leads me to another tip.
7: organise, consider and propose.
You're going to try a lot of things overseas, so one of the things to ask your host family when you get their email address is some of their plans, clubs or routines. If they intend for you to join, consider proposing it for a venturer badge. It's a great way to get more out of your trip and feel like you've been productive.
If you go to Japan (I don't know if Danish schools do clubs or not) pick a club that relates to something that you want to do when you get back. That way, if you end up not managing your required hours, you can finish it at home. I've wanted to start karate again for a while now, so when Tsumu mentioned in an email that it was one of the club options, I jumped at it! Its been a great way to get back into it, and I probably learned a lot faster in this small group setting than I would in a large class at home. I have a higher chance now of possibly reclaiming my orange belt. (Yeah, I know I was technically an orange tip when I had to drop, but I only missed the grading! I was qualified for an orange belt!)

OK, so that was Tuesday.
Now for Wednesday.
Fist off, YEAH, I CAN SKI!
Secondly, OW I can't ski!
Need I explain?
Basically, I can't ski. It hurt, and I swear I can so close to breaking my leg a couple of times in the ski hadn't popped off my foot. I can so close to rage quitting, but the thing about the place we went to was, once you're at the top of the hill, you literally have no choice other than to ski down. You can't walk, or you'll just slip down and get ice and snow all up your shirt, and you're not allowed to ride the ski lift back down. So, I just had to push through it and get down. (This was, of course, after a few lessons on a flat area. Don't worry, they didn't just hand me some skis and dump me on top of a hill and tell me "give it a shot" and the instructor was there, helping me the whole time)
After a short break, we went down again, with a little less help from the instructor. He said that I'm a natural, and was learning really fast, which makes me wish that I could take up skiing at home. But you know, it never snows in Toowoomba.
I didn't agree at the time, because I kept falling over, couldn't go straight, and soon. But after we stopped for lunch, made a couple of snowmen (picture further down) and went to an all you can eat for 30 mins icecream cafe (I WANT ONE IN TOOWOOMBA) I asked Tsumu if she was up to trying again. We didn't have the instructor this time since he had other classes to go to, which is why we stopped for lunch after on 2 tries. This time, I was alone. Tsumu went ahead a bit and watched, but she isn't good enough of a skier to actually help. So, every time I fell over, I just had to push myself up again, and keep going. This is when my infamous stubbornness comes in handy. I like to think of it as determination, but honestly, in any other situation, it's just plain stubbornness. If someone had helped me down that time, I wouldn't have appreciated it, honestly. I stopped caring about the bruises and snow, and just wanted to get to the bottom of the course to be able to say "I did it." To be able to have the pride.
I ended up needing to repeat a phrase in my head as I went down, which is almost exactly the same as what I would tell myself when I first started riding the horse that I had been petrified of as a child. Yeah, sweet little Sally used to look like a monster when I was young. I was amazed that Emma could ride her, but now I love her to bits! (Even if she clearly doesn't return the love a lot of the time, with glares, running away, refusing to do what she's told, or slapping me in the face with her tail. But I know she doesn't hate me, so I'm happy with that.)
Anyway, when I started riding, I kept saying to myself "Stay calm, relax, have faith in the horse." The same can be said for skiing, if anyone reading this wants to go try it. Just stay calm, relax and have faith in the skis.
Yes, I do, so I did!

If you must know, the above is the translation of  "Do you want to build a snowman" from Frozen. 
...I'm sorry...

Also, we didn't end up staying overnight, as I'm sure you can tell. We came home after that third trip down the hill and I went straight to bed. It was EXHAUSTING in a way that I'm not familiar with. I'm used to relating certain muscles hurting to being tired, from years of horse riding. These, however, were entirely different muscles. Just a bit weird.

And today.
I'm screwed.

Monday, 8 January 2018

Photo shoot?

OK, so today I pretty much felt like a model.
We went to a hairdresser and got all dressed up in a rented kimono.
I brought my kimono to wear in Japan, but... Well, we didn't consider that it's a summer kimono.
This one below is a winter kimono. A whole lot thicker and heavier, with multiple layers.
We went to a shrine with a couple of the venturers and leaders and took some photos.
It was kinda fun.

So, that was that. It was great fun, being dressed up in traditional Japanese clothes.
I'm kind of upset that I won't have a chance to wear mine, but I suppose there's not much I can do about it, with less than a week left. Maybe on Friday before I pack I can put it on and show it off to my family! 

After that, we went back to the salon and I got changed again, and they took all the many, many... many pins out for my hair. I guess that's what happens when your hair goes past your hips. 
Then we went out to have Udon for lunch!
ooh, it was good...
I love udon if you can't tell!

We were going to go home then, at about 3:00, but Utayo suggested going to see a nearby Bukeyashiki (Samurai manor). The Hikobe family manor is a samurai manner that has been opened as a museum. 
I wish I could have taken photos for this, but they aren't allowed...
I LOVED this!
My favourite class at school was Ancient History. It was hard and drove me insane at first, but once I train my brain to work the right way for the class, I fell in love with it! Seeing the way culture, architecture and methods to anything have changed over time is fascinating to me. It also helps that my mind automatically makes connections.That part's just natural. So I tend to compare and contrast everything I learn to things I already know, even if they don't seem to make sense to other people. I tried explaining what I was learning about Emperor Claudius to one of my best friends and ended up rambling about everything I'd learned before to give her context for my comparisons. I don't even remember what I said, but it involved Greece, Egypt and I think I threw in Mesoamerica in there somehow...
Naturally, she had no idea what I was on about!
But Ancient history was the best class in grade 12, hands down. Maths was challenging, English was hilarious, Music was a frustrating kind of fun, Science was fascinating, and Japanese through distance ed was pretty much suicide before I dropped it (not to say that it's a bad class. I still encourage people to learn languages and my classmates flourished in the Distance Ed setting, but with my selection of classes being Authority, and not being very good with stress, I was getting flat Ds, so that class was chucked out the window to save my other classes), but nothing really stretched and exercised my brain quite like Ancient history. 
So, being back in that setting, with a direct descendant of the samurai that once lived at this manor teaching me about the architecture and traditions of the Samurai age was like coming home early. 
This has confirmed my suspicions.
Be proud Mrs Ryan! I have the travel bug!
Not just any travel bug, mind you. I want to do what Mrs Ryan did, and travel the world looking for places of historical significance. She always told us that, no matter how much she told us about these places and times, we could never truly appreciate it until we saw it with our own eyes. Now, I want to see it all!
I'd lost the spark for history over the past month or so, but now I'm as determined as ever! I know my passion lies in this topic and is part of the reason that what I want to do is be a Tour Guide. I know that Australia doesn't have much Ancient history, or, at least, none that I've been allowed to learn, since I don't have aboriginal heritage, but I love to not only learn, but share that knowledge in a practical setting. I used to think that this meant I wanted to be a teacher, but after a while, I realised that a classroom setting isn't for me. And this trip to Japan has solidified that!
When I teach, I need to be out among the things I'm teaching about. When I finally saw real artefacts from the mid 14th century right in front of me, or when I was shown the old weaving machine and told how it actually works, I knew that that's what I want to do with my life! 
I want to teach, and inspire in a way that is impossible in a classroom. I feel like I'm finally absolutely certain with what I want to do with my life
This trip to Japan has helped me find purpose.

So to anyone on the fence about joining SISEP, I am telling you now that this kind of experience can change your life! You never know what new passions you'll find, or old passions that will be rekindled. You may only realise here how much some ordinary parts of your life mean to you.
I'm not promising that you'll find your purpose while overseas like I have. This is certainly an extreme that I never expected. However, you may be pushed in a direction that interests you. You may find out that you love animals, or children and decide to be a teacher or zookeeper. You may try a new art style and find out that you're good at it, or learn a new instrument. You might suddenly find that you enjoy activities that you used to despise like I did. My school was never big on casual sport, so unless you were in to win, you just didn't do it. It left a sour impression of sport in my mind for 5 years, but now I'm inviting my friends out to play basketball when I get home! I'm already working on an exercise routine to keep me active. 
You never know what you'll discover about yourself when you travel overseas, especially in an exchange program like this, where you can meet so many wonderful people who can help you learn about and discover the country you're in and yourself.

So, that was my thrilling day. And I think this was the first post that didn't have sentences starting with Anyway or Well. I'm proud of that!
But seriously, I'm knackered! Got school tomorrow too. Last day!
Then on Wednesday, we go out skiing and come back Thursday night. Friday will be packing and a bit of family time, then Saturday I'll pack the last of it and hop on a plane to Australia!
But first I need to work on that report...
But I want to go to bed...
Also, one last thing before I sign off for the night, if any of the people reading this tonight, an idea for what to use instead of Word would be great!
I may have lost access to Office...

OK, Goodnight again! I'll be home soon!

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Disney land, sea, school and the 7th.

Good news, I'm not dead!
I've just been really busy and haven't had time to update for a while...
So, What have I been up to?

On Thursday Utayo dropped Tsumu and me at the train station at about 5:45 AM. Fun.
We caught a 6:00 train to Tokyo, and caught another to the Tokyo Disney Resort. We caught a Disney train to Disney Sea (Like part 2 or Disney land, with more water themed franchises, like the little mermaid, and 20,000 leagues under the sea.)
We met Kako, a friend of ours that's been in Australia for the past year on student exchange. She's not a scout but went to Harristown SHS. I took her to scouts a lot, and she loved it! She's thinking about finding a Japanese scout group near her and trying it out. 
So, Since I'm really tired after all this, and have quite a bit to cover, I'll give you a brief bit of the Disney Resort.

First off, IT'S AMAZING!
If you ever get a chance to go, DO IT!
I understand why so many people go multiple times. We got to Disney Sea just as it opened on Thursday at 8:00, and didn't leave until after 9:00. We were there for over 12 hours and didn't get to go on all the rides. I don't think we made half! This place is massive, and we got lost so many times!
Disney land was a bit less time. We had breakfast at the hotel, and I may have gotten a bit carried away... (3 serves...) So we didn't leave until after 9:00. Probably about 10:00 by the time we got there. Then we left just after the night parade (Which was amazing! I skipped a rollercoaster for that, and I have no regrets!) which was about 8:00, and spent until almost 10:00 when it closed shopping. I managed to find 2 presents there for my family! Kako got all three of us a little ice cream keychain each and bought something for herself, or her family. Not sure. 
We got picked up by Utayo and driven back home. I finally crawled into bed sometime after 11:00, so probably got to sleep at almost midnight. And then, because of fantastic planning, got up at 7:00 to go to school. Some of you may think that 7 hours of sleep is plenty. But those of you who know me will know that any less than 8, I am a zombie the next morning. So, naturally...
But if anyone reading this has a chance to go, go on the Indiana Jones ride, and the StarWars ride! If they stay the same, you'll love it! Unless you don't like Indiana Jones or Star Wars... Or ger scared easily, or get motion sickness, or anything like that...
But, if you don't get those, DO IT!

Anyway, school was fun to be back at. 
Everyone was so nice, as usual, and I gave my email to Matano to keep in contact with him too. 
It was good to be back in karate too. It's always the highlight of my school days. 
I've only got one day left with these people, on Tuesday. Tsumu's betting that I'll cry. Considering I didn't even cry at graduation, which was the last day that I would see the people that I've been in the same classes as for the past 5 years, I don't think I will. 
Granted, most of those people at graduation that I won't see again weren't really my friends... 
Except for some people that I probably won't have an excuse to spend time with without it being awkward...
You know those people? The ones that you just enjoy being near, but have absolutely NOTHING in common with, so couldn't plan any sort of hang out? Yeah... So unless we got a gang gathering, there's a couple of people that I consider my friends that I probably won't see until the 10-year reunion, if at all.
Anyway, I will miss my classmates here, especially the guys in the karate club. It felt nice being one of the guys again. I don't get along with girls well, but Chihiro has proved to be a pretty good friend. I like to talk with her between classes, but I'm not sure if we have enough in common that we would hang out if I lived here. I think she's like my Ancient History classmates (The few that didn't give me dirty looks because I'm an unpopular kid, over a year younger than them, that isn't good enough to breathe the same air as them. Yeah, I got a lot of that...). Amy, Macca and Courtney mostly. We talked in class occasionally and got along well, but not enough to hang out. 
I hope to keep in contact with her though, and maybe the next time I come to visit Tsumu I can catch up with her. 

After school we went to see the new Star Wars movie in 4D!
Ok, so I'm going to rave about it, in both positive and negative, so...
I'll try to stay vague, but maybe skip down to the gap if you haven't seen it, just in case.

OH, MY GOD, I LOVED IT!! That movie was great in 4D!
The writing was OK... It could have been better, but hey, it's not as bad as the prequel series!
I was scared for a bit when the Force was being explained that they would bring up that which should not be named from episode 1, but I'm so glad they didn't! Some of the jokes were OK and didn't feel too forced to me. A couple were actually kind of funny.
I feel like they sacrificed a character for Ben's development (If you've seen it, you know who), but Ben didn't feel too bad either. I think it's just in his character to be dramatic and go to the extreme. 
And then... THAT scene!
I swear, with so much build up, they CANNOT do that with Ray's parents! He had to be lying! That is SUCH a copout! SERIOUSLY? 😠
Everything before and after points differently, and I swear, if someone told me that they rewrote and reshot that scene at the last minute, I would believe it! 
Also, I get why my brother and mum don't like it. Some of the older characters were a bit weak and out of character to what we were used to from past movies, and some scenes of the force didn't seem... normal...
But, hey, it's not as bad as some people think. 
I would say that it's like the prequel series in action (because seriously, with all the hate that those movies get, the original series didn't have much entertaining light sabre fighting. That was all in the prequels, remember? )
And honestly, the Prequels aren't that bad. I mean, yeah, it was a let down to see how Darth Vader fell, and Anakin was just a child for the whole thing and none of the characters were really interesting except for Obiwan, but, and I will quote Socca from Avatar the Last Airbender, "The effects were decent". 
So, The last Jedi was like them, with WAY better writing, even if there were a few flops. 
So, while it's not the best entry in the series, it was pretty good. It could have been SO much worse. I would watch it again.
That's just my take. Had to get that off my chest.
Back to the stuff that you actually want to read about. 

OK, you're safe if you skipped that. 
Anyway, today.
A normal thing for my scout group to do to get money is Car Parking. We volunteer to direct traffic at the Toowoomba Showgrounds during events like the Expo's, shows, competitions, and pretty much everything. 
That's what we did. 
Today was the coming of age ceremony, for everyone who turned 20 in the year past. The scouts had to direct the traffic in the freezing winter morning. Wonderful...
After that, the leaders gave us some lunch consisting of onigiri (rice balls). Then Utayo took Tsumu and me out shopping to try and find that last present that I need... I didn't...
Anyway, then we went back to the scout... Clearing? Place? Temple? It's not a den, so... I dunno... You get it. 
We went back for my farewell party. Yikes! last scouting event!
We had a bit of a tea ceremony, mixed with a party. it was nice. 
We had Japanese snacks, like umeboshi flavoured rice crackers, and Japanese biscuits, and I was taught how to properly make green tea in a ceremony setting! It was great! 
I can't describe this much here. It was a special time that seriously NEEDS to be experienced. To be accepted into a group like this, and be sent off in such a way. They even have a tradition, like my unit (I think) has started the tradition of the spiral hug to send someone off when they link up, or leave. It hasn't worked well so far, because some people don't mention it before they leave, but I hope that it can become a tradition!
Their tradition was a meaningful gesture with their hats, as I stood before the parade. a wave to send good luck and fortune my way, and to wish me a safe trip home. 

I even got to talk with the Beavers a bit. They are adorable! I can't believe that I'm actually starting to like children, considering how much I used to despise the noisy little things. I still very much dislike babies and certainly don't have the patience to take care of one, but kids about 7 and up aren't too bad. I think I'm starting to understand my sister's joy in working as a Nanny. It really is a wonderful feeling to make a child smile. 
After that, we went off the Baskin Robbins for some delicious ice cream! 
I had pear, rocky road, and caramel macadamia.
Tsumu had Popping candy, sherbet and choc hazelnut. 

Then we went off to a bonfire!

Yeah, that big tower of bamboo fell over, as I expected.
Ropes and pegs don't do much when the base burns away. 

And then they cook mochi.
The Japanese New Years goes for a week. So, on the 7th they eat very plain, easy to digest food, to make up for the parties, ceremonies, and treats that they've had. 
They also have a bonfire to burn all their New Year's decorations, which apparently will bring good luck in the year to come.

Anyway... It's getting late, and I am EXHAUSTED!
I still have so much stuff planned for my last week, and my bed is calling to me. 
I'll see if I can post again before I get on the plane. I should be able to. I have Friday and Saturday morning off to pack, so I should be able to steal some time to update this about skiing and tomorrow's... whatever we're doing. All I know is that I'll be wearing my kimono. I think that they might just be taking me out to feel what it's like to get ready for a ceremony. It'll be great, I think!
I'll post pictures!

Well, goodnight from Japan!
I'll be home soon!

Wednesday, 3 January 2018


To future travellers to Japan. If you ever get an opportunity to go to a karaoke bar, DO NOT let it pass.
I went with Tsumu and Miyu to a karaoke bar today, and it was AMAZING!
At first, I wasn't in the mood for it. I expected a big, busy building with people passing outside the door of our room almost constantly. I wasn't in the mood for lines, crowds, or strangers in general.
But this day was a lot better than I expected!
First off, there were no lines or crowds. No one passed our door the whole time we were there, because of the building's layout. You had no reason to pass most of the doors, and there were 2 doors with fogged glass to get into each room anyway, so it was pretty soundproof and hidden.

Plus, I already knew Miyu, so it was a lot better than if I'd met another of Tsumu's friends.
It was a heap of fun in our little room! Tsumu got me to sing Japanese songs, like Let it Go in Japanese, and couple of Vocaloid songs. 
I wish I could upload some of the recordings of our absolutely beautiful and angelic *cough* singing, but the files are too big. Apparently, it needs to be less than 100 MB... 😫
Anyway, I'll keep this update short, because we need to catch a train to Disney Sea at 6:00AM, and I need to pack. We'll be staying in Tokyo overnight and going to Disney Land on Friday.
And then school, and work with the scouts, and the ceremony in my kimono, then school, and skiing... then packing and a 9-hour flight home...
It's amazing how at home I feel here now. I've stopped thinking "I'm going home next week" and instead just think "I'm leaving next week." It may sound similar, but it's a big difference. 
These people have become my family, and I'm going to miss them almost as much as I miss my real family. I've grown to appreciate their quirks, like Tsumu always trying to overthink plans and make schedules that just stress her out, or Masahiro making jokes that I think (judging my Tsumu's reactions) are like dad jokes, but sadly the punchline tends to get lost in translation. 😁 Or even Utayo's tendency to over-worry about everything, especially Tsumu's and my health. If I sneeze just once, she's darting around to turn on the heater and get me some tea, and I have to keep telling her that it's just dust and pollens in the air and that I'm fine.

Just one last note, I want to make it clear to all future SISEP participants that, just because I never used my powerpoint presentation, doesn't mean that you won't. There are good reasons for me not using mine. At school, they were close to exams and couldn't spare the time for me to do a full presentation, and my scout group doesn't have a den. Not to mention they aren't having weekly meetings, because of exams, New years, and other special days at this time of the year. 
Other schools and scout groups will have different schedules, so be prepared to use it. Make sure it's done BEFORE you get on the plane. I remember that unneeded stress at the hotel that first night when I remembered that I hadn't finished it. 
It wasn't fun.
So, just take my advice. Follow the scout motto. 
Be Prepared.

And with that, I bid thee goodnight. 

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Happy New Year!

Well, kinda... Not really... ish...
It snowed for a bit, but it never settled...
So, I'll still say that I haven't seen snow.
Now to tell you all about my wonderful time at the New Year's countdown camp.
After I get my brain working again...
As I'm sure you can tell, I've had one hour of sleep since about 6:30 yesterday morning. Wonderful...
And yet, I don't feel like going to bed!
I'll go to bed early tonight, though. Maybe about 8:00. Tsumu's already in bed, but she didn't sleep at all last night as far as I know.
So, yesterday morning we packed for the camp and then went to Tasumu's grandmother's house to cat the mochi, then had lunch. After that, we packed the car and it started snowing!
Yeah, you can't see much snow in her hair... It didn't snow much.

When we got to the camp, we pretty much dumped our bags, had a quick parade and ran off to start on the camp. 
Speaking of Parade, I don't think I've ever mentioned the differences. I think that that's pretty important. 
First off, unlike Australia's horseshoe parade, the Japanese stand in lines according to their section. A line for the bevers, another for the cubs, the scouts, and so on. The section leaders say some quick things to their line, normally just a welcome, before passing the parade to the group leader, who is the one to tell everyone what's happening. To close the parade, they just salute and it's done. No outward step, which has become such a habit over the past decade. 
Also, the salute is different. Not much, and it actually took me three parades to notice it, but they salute like the navy, just with the same three fingers. It's something that even I didn't notice until now, that we salute with a vertical palm, while the Japanese hold their hand almost horizontal.
But that's just a bit more on that. 
Back to the camp!

We left the camp half set up to prepare the candles, and oh wow... 
This was quite possibly the worst part of the camp, and yet the best at the same time.
The actual act of laying out the candles and designing this year's pattern was lots of fun, and I also had to redo a heap of coloured candles by wrapping coloured plastic sheets around them.
But, at the same time, my toes and fingers were absolutely numb!
It was freezing!
But that was the only negative of the camp. the fact that the whole time it was cold enough to freeze the lake! (That picture's further down.) 
The candle plan. The scouts are tasked with lining the walkway to the temple with candles, so we're allowed to design the patterns.
Just wait, and you'll see ;)

While we were lining the candles we found this dog. I've seen horses this size!


The second course.

See? It's amazing!

This adds a whole new meaning to the term "Fire bucket".

OK, so you've had pictures, now for a description/explanation.
After we set out the candles, we went back to the camp, finished setting up and had some free time. Some other leaders and... Well, I think they're like our branch members. You know, deal with finances and stuff, instead of actually scouting. We had another parade for them, and they gave me some gifts, including a handmade Japanese scouting hat! I'm really getting concerned that I'll have to post things home. I still need to get presents for some of my family members...
Oh well.
We also had 3 venturers from another group join us for the evening. I didn't get to talk to them much, but they were nice. We had some introduction activities, and I stressed out a bit too much and ended up just going quiet... But that's what I love about these people! They noticed and didn't push me to say more. They let me just listen and try to pick up on things.
After that, we venturers made dinner, which you saw above. It's just noodles with a kind of soup (I don't remember the name, but it was just a basic soup to add flavour.) and some kind of leaf, that tastes a bit like seaweed. 
After that, more free time. We just huddled around the fires and talked a bit. 
Then, midnight!
We had our countdown, and some of our venturers mimicked fireworks, playing off what I mentioned earlier about how we normally watch fireworks on new years eve. I'm going to miss these people... XD
Pretty much straight away we left the camp and headed to the temple for meditation. 
It was interesting, to say the least, being taught a new way of meditation. 
I don't think I've meditated since early grade 11 when I stopped having time and energy for my old morning routine. I used to work out with push-ups, and such, then meditate to clear my mind before I go to get ready for school. I've never done it on a cushion or in that position before, though. It was nice to try something new.
Then we headed back to camp and said goodbye to our visitors. After that, more free time! We played Uno in one of the tents, nibbling on Japanese snacks like rice crackers, mochi, and chocolate biscuits. 
I decided to turn in about 4:00, but I was the only one to do so. I woke up about 5:00 or 5:30 when my hair got stuck in the zipper of my jacket, which I was using as a pillow because, just like every camp I've ever been on, I forgot to bring a pillow. 😄
I sat by the fire with one of the scouts and a couple of the leaders until the sun started coming up, and we went to get the others to watch:

The first sunrise of the new year!

And a frozen lake to top it off.

This was a beautiful sunrise. These pictures don't do it justice.

After we packed up the camp, we went to a temple for a ceremony.

You take one of these from the table and write what you wish for this year, like happiness, or health. 
On mine, I wrote Safety. That's normally the thing that I worry about most. Car crashes, falling off the horses, getting mugged, and so on. 
I personally don't believe in spirits and gods and whatnot, but I'm open-minded enough to try these kinds of things, just in case they work.

I feel like over just this past weekend, I've learned so much more about the Japanese culture. 
The biggest thing that I've noticed is that New Years Eve and Day focus more on the year to come, than celebrating the year that's gone, like in western cultures. Meditation to clear the mind, prayers to wish for a brighter future, and so on. They don't have parties, or fireworks like we do because those are to celebrate the year that's gone. The Japanese people are much more concerned about the future than the past, which is possibly why they don't seem to have as much of a sense of shame or embarrassment. 
This camp taught me so much, that simply can't be put into words. It truly is a feeling that needs to be experienced first hand.

That was written yesterday, and I fell asleep before I posted it. Uta woke me up for Tsumu's Aunt and Uncle (Masahiro's brother) and their 2 daughters who came for dinner. We played card games, like both Australian and Japanese speed, Uno, and Shinkeisuijaku. Fun name, right? 
They also tried the promite, and the two girls both said it was too salty! One of the girls also drew a picture of me, and another of me a Tsumu. They are so cute, and I plan to hang them on my wall when I get home.
They went home, and I fell asleep right away. 
Then, I got up this morning and was immediately whisked away to Mt Fuji!

a Ninja house renovated into a market sort of thing.

Just a heads up to anyone going to Japan.
When they ask if you want some Lemonade, FORGET what you know lemonade to be.
A better description would be lemon tea because it's hot and actually made of lemons.
It's NOT a soft drink.
Just a heads up so that you can avoid confusion.


A three-hour drive, so obviously she fell asleep!

No idea what these are. Graves? Memorials? Part of a shrine or temple? No clue, but it's cool.


A theme park of JUST roller coasters. Apparently famous for the most thrilling roller coasters in Japan. Thankfully, we didn't go there. (I'm a chicken for roller coasters if you can't tell.)

Yup. We drove that. It was great!

A sky cart that takes us up to the top of the mountain to look out at Mt Fuji. Sadly, we weren't allowed to climb it, because it's closed off when the snow settles. It gets too dangerous with all that ice.

Characters from a famous Japanese fairytale based in this area. I've got pictures of the story further down.

Hug fair.
Not even Tsumu has a clue what it is!
That bell is a real thing on top of the mountain. I'll explain it when we get to that picture.

Don't ask me to translate this fairytale. 
The gist is, once upon a time, there was an old couple that lived in this area.
One night, this creature (No idea what it's supposed to be) killed the old lady.

The old man was very upset about this (Obviously) and I'm not sure if he asked the rabbit to, or if he simply talked to the rabbit and it decided to take matters into its own hands, but...

The rabbit proceeds to torture the creature by lighting it on fire,

Cutting it's back with clam shells, I think, and attempting to drown it.
And that's it.
A wonderful story, isn't it?
It probably has a proper ending if I bothered to translate it, but that's about all I can get from the few words I recognise, the pictures, and the MANY statues around. 

I love the view from the top of this mountain. Get ready for LOTS of photos of it surrounding area!

The top of the sky cart. So cute!

A wonderful, friendly statue to the rabbit using shells (again, I only think they're shells) to cut the poor creature's back.
And people think that our western stories fairytales are bad... At least we don't make statues of Ariel dying and turning into sea foam, or the stepsisters from Cinderella having birds peck out their eyes...


One with Bean powder, and the other with Soy Sauce. Delicious!

Tells about the goddess of the mountain, who wants to bring happiness to all creatures. So, to do that, she made the bell in a couple of pictures.

Why does he look so happy as the rabbit lights his stuff on fire, while it's on his back?
Now that I look at it, I think it might be a Tanuki...
(Google it!)

The bell.
They say that if you ring it with your partner before you get married, it'll bring you happiness as a couple.
Pretty sweet, I think.

Heh, who needs that sky cart when you can hike all the way down the mountain!

Utayo apparently doesn't like hiking, so she took the cart back down and waited for us at the bottom for about 40 minutes.

This is more my kind of hiking. 
While I'm normally hiking through terrain like bellow, these paths are better than the road last time. They at least have rocks and roots that you could trip over, and branches that could slap you in the face.

Not even half-way. A wonderful hike!

Yeah, they have a word for this. Shimobashira. 
It's water int he soil that's frozen and come to the surface. 
Although considering we have a word for a pond left by a dried river, I can't think that this is weird.
I swear, if you combined every language, you'd have a word for literally everything you could imagine.

This is a WWII memorial of the local soldiers.

That's it. I just like seeing things that I spent a term studying, like alternative power production, actually in practice.

So, after that wonderful experience, we moved on to the Narusawa Ice Caves.

More birds for me to try memorising the names of! This is the kind of homework that I love!

The ice caves!
These pictures won't do it justice because honestly, I was more excited about being in there than taking photos, so sorry about the poor quality.

It's a little shrine statue at the bottom of the ice caves. And it's adorable!

This basically says (according to Masahiro) that if you try to climb over the fence to the rest of the caves, you won't be coming back.

The gift shop!

Combining chocolate, wafer, strawberries and cheesecake. 
But, sadly, I didn't buy it...

Get ready for a postcard, family!

So, we went to a restaurant for lunch, and this was the view. It's great!

Literally one thing on the menu here. How is it so popular then, you may ask.

Somehow the people around us were getting one each. We barely managed one between two.

What kind of person needs a chair this big, other than Hagrid?
(Congrats to you if you get it. If you don't... You clearly haven't read the right kind of books)

Party tables!

That's the outside of the restaurant. Pretty funky design, huh?

Can you spot the bird?

How about these ones?

They're so cute! 
No idea what they are though. I never got close enough to compare them to any of the signs I've seen. They're pretty skittish.

The Japanese are pretty good at suspending chopsticks in midair with just plastic noodles.



Handmade again.

Noticing a pattern here?

Still handmade.

Don't think these are handmade though.


In a world of owls, red pandas, cats, dogs and tigers, there is one brave crocodile to add some green to the mix.

I can't be the only one that thinks this bear could be animated and put into a cartoon as a villain, am I?
I mean, red, with the 'evil' moustache, and the hat. I would watch that cartoon and expect a fun, over-the-top villain that's more interesting than the heroes. 

Props to you if you know Anpanman.

A nice, big moon to finish off the day.

So, another action-packed day.
Wow... When I get home, I'm going to just sleep for a week straight! then spend the next week hiding in my room with books and video games, then the next week with Charlie (my horse) because he'll be back from school by then. And THEN I might consider socialising...
This is the kind of day that I've been hoping for. Going with the family to do something that even they don't do on a regular basis. School and scouts, and going shopping is fun, but this was amazing!
Which leads me on to another tip!

6 - Don't be scared to tell your family what you want to do.
I don't think that you could leave an experience like this with a feeling worse than "I wish I'd done that."
Don't try deciding for yourself whether it's possible or not. Your host family know the country better than you do. 
I mentioned to them that I wanted to see Mt Fuji because, well, there's no way in hell that I'd come this far and NOT visit the most popular tourist attraction, and tallest mountain, in Japan.
They mentioned to me that it was a two to three-hour drive away. However, unlike what I expected, they didn't say that we couldn't go. Instead, they said that we would simply have to leave early and get back late. Which is what we did. We were gone by 8:00, a bit later than we planned, and didn't get back until about 8:00.
Your host family will probably want to make this the best experience for you. Don't tell yourself that you can't do it until you ask. I considered not mentioning Fuji, and almost didn't go and have the best day of my trip so far! Just ask, and they'll decide. Don't go home wishing that you'd tried it.
Just like the plan of going skiing next week. If I hadn't mentioned it, we wouldn't be doing it.
If you want to, just do it.

But it's 11:00 now, so Imma off to bed!
Tomorrow we're going to karaoke, so I'm hoping for a more relaxing day...
Let's see how that turns out! XD
You can expect another update tomorrow, but for now, before I leave, a quick idea of what's planned.

4-Disney Sea
5-Disney Land
7-Volunteer work with scouts (No idea what to expect!)
8-Coming of age ceremony for people who turned 20 last year
13-packing, Tokyo, hop on a plane.

Not many days left...
Time to make the most of it!
Goodnight World!